February 02, 2006

In which our heroine learns of the diuretic and dysphoric properties of coconut soup.

Late last week, assailed by a craving for coconut milk and lemongrassy deliciousness, I made, for the billionth time since she posted it, my baby sister's amazing Thai coconut soup. It is wonderful. It also yields about three gallons of soup, which means, because I seem to automatically increase every recipe I make on the mistaken belief that I am cooking for a small army rather than just for me, that it makes about five gallons of soup a la Katie. That is a lot of coconut soup.

Soup is largely, you will recall, liquid. I live on a steady diet of coffee, which is also a liquid. I have the smallest bladder in the world. You see where this is going.

A few nights ago, in a fervent attempt to finish the goddamned soup and free up some room in the fridge, I consumed all of the soup I had left, and then headed out to the pub to get some reading done, where I commenced adding several pints of beer to the several pints of coconut broth already in me.

Approximate timetable of results:
9:00ish: Finished soup. Peed.
9:15: Put on coat. Peed.
9:25: Left house. Locked door. Unlocked door. Went back in. Peed.
9:45: Arrived at pub. Peed. Ordered beer. Read.
10:00-1:45: Drank beer, read, peed, read, peed, drank another beer, peed, read, peed, read, beer, peed.
2:00: Arrived home. Peed. Readied for bed.
2:20: Got out of bed, peed.
2:42: Got out of bed, peed.
3:50: Woke up, got out of bed, peed.
6:00: Woke up, got out of bed, peed.
9:30-10:05: Slept through the first 35 minutes of the class I'm TAing.

Spent a very tired day trying to get on track. Went out, finished reading for my TAship, did my lesson plan, and got a major bit of reading done for my seminar on Friday. Met a really cute mildly drunk girl at the pub who had recently finished her undergrad degree in my department, and who, since she took several classes with my advisor, was quite familiar with the book I was reading and very into reminiscing about the university and the classes she took that I TA'd for. I was smooth. As the Beastie Boys would have it:

Met a girl at a party and she started to flirt
I told her some rhymes and she pulled up her skirt.

Or, back here in the real world, we talked for awhile, hug hug, and then she left with the guy I think might have been her boyfriend.

Got home around 1:30 and went to bed, whereupon I immediately commenced Katie's Short-Short Film Festival of 30-second nightmares. All night. It would go like this: Fall asleep. Cue very short film reel in which I am driving on the road to the west entrance of campus, only the car won't stop accelerating and all of a sudden I'm at the twisty part full of hairpin turns on the way to Bonny Doon and I'm going 140 MPH and I can't slow down. Wake up. Calm down. Get back to sleep. Cue 30-second clip in which I'm lying down in a room and there's sort of a sheet on me and people are standing around by my feet and all of a sudden I realize I'm having my leg amputated and they have no idea that the anesthetic has just worn off. Wake up. Calm down. Get back to sleep.

Finally fell asleep for real around 5 AM and had an extended dream, in which it was later that afternoon and instead of having my one real department meeting to go to, I had three department meetings back to back. At the first one, I attempted to do or say something in a nice, protective way on behalf of another grad student, but it came out in a way that sounded as though I had just walked into a room full of faculty I work closely with and said something terrible, mean, petty, and patently untrue to undermine one of my colleagues. And the faculty all saw right through it and, no matter what I said to try to clarify or fix it, they became increasingly disgusted, and one of my committee members drove off in his car before I could talk to him about my exams, and at the next meeting they made me sit in another part of the room at a conference table that was actually full of people from Texas at a corporate training event, and none of the professors would talk to me. Woke up, took a few seconds to realize that I was awake, and then started crying. That was weird.

I was disinclined to go back to sleep after that, so I just fucking got up. Had a 12-hour campus day (with intermissions), in the middle of which, outside the real department meeting (which was fine), I ran into a friend who's in my Friday seminar. Asked her what she thinks of the Chesnutt novel we're reading (the one I'd just spent several days reading, and about which I had a lovely but fruitless convo at the pub the night before). My friend looked puzzled.

"I don't know," she said. "I haven't started it yet. Aren't we reading that next week?"

"Um, hellooo?" I said. "You might want to get reading, lame-o."

Went home and looked at the syllabus again. She's right, of course: I've been reading entirely the wrong book. I think I'm overtired. But there won't be any nightmares tonight, because instead of sleeping I get to plow through Puddn'head Wilson at the last minute. Maybe I'll drink a lot of liquids, just to make sure I can't fall asleep.

Posted by katie at February 2, 2006 12:04 PM | TrackBack

Oh, how is Pudd'nhead Wilson? I've heard good things about it. Sort of. Actually, I've heard good things about it as an exemplar of a certain strain of American intellectualism in the late 19th Century; I don't think I've heard anything about its literary merits. But my intellectual history professor quite liked it.

Also, if there is nothing else to recommend it, it as at least very short.

Posted by: Zach S. at February 2, 2006 02:40 PM

You mean, your baby sister's amazing Thai coconut soup. And I am prepared to swear that it had nothing to do with your nightmares, and only impacted your being tired and confused by virtue of your decision to consume a small ocean's worth of it. Thai coconut soup, like all mind-altering substances, should be consumed in moderation and with reasonable caution. Phthbt.

Posted by: Dianna at February 2, 2006 04:22 PM

Pudd'nhead Wilson is amazing, although you might not have heard much about its literary merits due to the fact that it doesn't have many. In fact, while I thought it was a great read, it's kind of a mess - Twain was forced to rewrite the thing and take most of the beginning out, and it seems like he didn't do a whole lot in the way of rewriting or restructuring. So shit happens, and then other shit happens, and a lot of it's really smart, and some of it's kind of random. Of course, I read it very very quickly, so I assumed that I missed a lot, but one of the profs I was talking to about it (a big Twain guy here) volunteered his opinion that it doesn't really stand up to close scrutiny and that the best way to read it is probably fast.

I totally agree with your prof that it's much more valuable - and enjoyable - in terms of the way it preserves and lampoons a certain moment in Western intellectual history. Twain constructs a really strange and totally ridiculous intersection between the rise of racial science and criminology, and what power those sciences have to "set things right." It's basically a farce about the fruits of Enlightenment-era scientific positivism in American law and politics. It's probably terrific for someone studying law to read. The courtroom scene at the end is like a silly outtake from Law & Order, but (I think) with really disturbing implications.

Highly recommend!

Posted by: katie at February 8, 2006 02:31 PM

Well, then, I shall read it. I feel silly not having read it yet, considering that I have a copy sitting on my desk right next to my laptop as I type this.

A few months ago one of the last used bookstores in our neighborhood went out of business and had a dollar-per-book liquidation sale. That's when I picked up my copy of Pudd'nhead Wilson. It's been languishing on my bookshelf since then, tossed aside for Torts and Contracts and Civil Procedure. My workload hasn't really diminished, but my willingness to fully devote myself to it has. As such, I think I might be able to find time for more recreational reading.

Further, I've been pining for a satire of the legal system, and don't really have the time to go through Bleak House again, so Pudd'nhead Wilson might be ideal.

Posted by: Zach S. at February 8, 2006 05:25 PM

Oh god, Bleak House. That was the bane of my existence for a solid quarter about two years ago. I took a really great class on narrative theory in which all the theoretical reading rocked, but the only novel we read -- our case study -- was goddamned Bleak House.

My main problem with Dickens, I think, is that I don't like orphans and I only like a very particular kind of governess, which doesn't happen to be the kind of governess Esther is. I petered out about halfway through the book, and I never did figure out what was going on with Jarndyce & Jarndyce. Is it worth reattempting, do you think? My Delightful Housemate loved it and was really appalled that I never brought myself to finish it.

I did decide that I want a Growlery.

Posted by: katie at February 10, 2006 08:03 AM

I liked Bleak House, but bear in mind that I read it in an undergraduate survey course in which it was the distinct high point (That semester also featured Richardson's Pamela and The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson. And Walden. I know there are some out there who really like Thoreau. I am not among them). So it was the best in a bad bunch, but I still think I genuinely enjoyed it.

At the same time, I didn't actually finish Bleak House. I got close to the end, around page 800-850, then realized that I had already gotten everything I needed for the paper I was writing (It was on Harold Skimpole), and lost all motivation to finish.

I also tend to like Dickens in general, so that colors it a bit. Because my tastes are a bit outside the mainstream in that respect, I generally refrain from recommending Dickens's books to anyone. So I would say: If Dickens isn't your deal, 1000 pages of Dickens sure as hell isn't going to be your deal.

Doesn't disliking orphans set quite a bit of English literature (meaning literature from England, rather than literature in the English language) at a disadvantage? Orphans seem to be a pretty common device in the literature of the British Isles.

Posted by: Zach S. at February 10, 2006 08:27 AM

I'd also like to point out that Dickens isn't very upbeat even on a good day (unless that day is Christmas). It's all the worse when he feels the need to warn you about how depressing the book will be right in the title (Bleak House, Hard Times, etc.). "This isn't going to be one of those pansy-ass schmaltz fests like Oliver Twist or A Christmas Carol. Get ready for some bleak!" That's when you know you're in for some dismal reading. Loquaciously dismal reading.

Posted by: Zach S. at February 10, 2006 08:35 AM